Reflections on 10 Years in the Same Pulpit

Reflections on 10 Years in the Same Pulpit

As I reflect this week on a decade of ministry with the people of Pray’s Mill Baptist—my heart is elated and filled with joy as I consider the privilege of serving the church where my wife and I grew up as children. When I’m asked about what it’s like to come home and serve in the context of the local church where we were nurtured and discipled as children—I explain by stating that it’s joyful, humbling, sanctifying, challenging, and fulfilling at the same time.  

When I arrived ten years ago, the church had gone through a rough season. I remember receiving a phone call from an older pastor in our community when he heard that I was being considered for the office of pastor. He called me and discouraged me from coming. He likewise encouraged a completely different ministry approach from the beginning that looking back would have harmed our church. You know what they say about unsolicited advice, right? It’s never asked for and seldom followed. I chose to go a different direction. I wanted to build stability, trust, and set the stage for longevity.

Through the years, it has been a joy to serve a church with such a high view of Scripture. If the Bible teaches something—the people within our church desire to obey.  That makes pastoral leadership joyful and effective at the same time. A high view of Scripture has enabled us to accomplish many goals such as church planting in the mountains of Ecuador, the establishment of a plurality of elders, the practice of biblical church discipline, and more. Having a proper view of God’s Word allows the church to accomplish big goals for the glory of God.   

When a church calls a younger pastor, often they fail to forget that just as you would expect younger men to grow in grace and mature in the faith—so must a younger pastor be afforded that same process. Unfortunately, many churches do not view pastoral ministry through a proper lens, and they become angry when their pastor makes changes or adopts a new position based on a theological conviction. This often creates division and perpetuates the statistics whereby pastors rotate from pulpit to pulpit every 2-4 years—dragging along their wife and children from church to church. I’m grateful that has not been my story. I’m thankful for our church’s patience with me through the years as I’ve adopted new positions, grown in my knowledge of Scripture, made my fair share of mistakes, and sought to grow in my ability to serve well from the pulpit and in the work of shepherding souls—which is the calling of a pastor.

The Scriptures say much about love (1 John 4:7), and I can honestly say that my family and I have been loved well within the context of our local church. In 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, Paul encourages the church to have a proper love and respect for their pastors. He writes:

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

A church that loves their pastors will enable their leaders to serve them with joy which is far better for the life of the pastor, his family, and the entire church as a whole. Not only has the church honored me well, but they have loved me and befriended me. My closest relationships are within the context of our local church. That is something that I will cherish the rest of my life.

Longevity has afforded my children stability during formative years. It has allowed me and my family to model longevity by way of church membership—in essence practicing what I preach regarding a high view of membership and resistance against the prevailing tide of evangelical consumerism. While ten years sounds like a long time to some people, when you consider the fact that Adrian Rogers served in Memphis for 32 years, John Calvin served in Geneva for 25 years, Charles Simeon served in Cambridge for 50 years, Martyn Lloyd-Jones served in London for about 30 years, and W.A. Criswell preached through the entire Bible verse-by-verse as pastor of First Baptist Dallas, Texas for nearly 50 years—I have a way to go. Most recently, just last year one of my heroes in the faith, John MacArthur surpassed 50 years as pastor of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. I’m grateful for a church that desires longevity from pastoral leadership as opposed to a rotating door. It’s good for pastors and the entire church family.

One of the greatest joys of my life is to serve with a group of faithful elders and deacons who love God, pursue holiness, and seek to lead and care for the church faithfully. When I arrived ten years ago, I was the “CEO pastor” who had a staff surrounding me. Today, we have a staff structure, but we likewise have a plurality of elders who oversee the church spiritually, lead from God’s Word, shepherd souls, engage in the work of discipleship and missions, and labor alongside a plurality of deacons to serve in practical service roles. To see the unity among a plurality of elders and a plurality of deacons is a tremendous blessing on my life and the life of our church family.

I am grateful for God’s immense blessing through the gift of my wife, Kari. We met as children in the church I serve now as pastor. Who knew that the adults were shaping and discipling a future pastor and pastor’s wife who would eventually return home and serve the body? It’s a story of God’s providence. Yet, not only has God gifted our home, but he has gifted our church with a pastor’s wife who truly loves the people and seeks to engage with other women as a means of friendship and Titus 2 discipleship. I consider myself to be doubly blessed. Kari is my wife and the mother of my children, but also a co-laborer in ministry within the context of our church. She’s one of the hardest working people I know.

As I look forward, I can only imagine what the Lord has in store for the future of our church. Many of the things we were able to accomplish in these last ten years I had set as goals from the beginning. However, the founding of G3 Conference which has exploded into a ministry that serves to encourage and equip the local church in sound biblical truth was nowhere on my radar screen. I continue to dream big, but more than that, I trust in a big God who has a much greater vision for the church than I could ever imagine or dream. I want his will more than anything for our church.

It is my prayer that our church family at Pray’s Mill Baptist will remain “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).


God’s Plan for the Church Is Authoritative Preaching

God’s Plan for the Church Is Authoritative Preaching

All through the Scriptures we see shepherding analogies. We find the relationship between God and his people described in such terms. As it pertains to the church, the people of God are called God’s flock. It is Christ who is described as the good Shepherd who actually lays down his life for the sheep.

Building on this analogy, pastors are called to shepherd God’s flock. The office of elder in the local church is a spiritual leadership office designed to shepherd souls by faithfully leading and overseeing them through God’s Word. God’s people, like sheep in the field, need faithful shepherds to lead and guide them.

So, what about the pastor’s preaching? Should it be funny? Is the pastor to be looking for the ultra-relevant sermon style in order to connect with his modern audience? Is it his job to entertain people—causing them to leave feeling good each week as they have been presented with a helpful moralistic speech filled with relevant stories for application? Actually, none of these approaches to the pulpit accomplish what God has in mind for the church of Jesus. God’s will is for preaching to have an authoritative tone.

In Titus 2:15, we find these words from the apostle Paul to Titus:

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Authoritative Preaching Defined

We live in a world filled with privacy fences. People in our culture enjoy a rugged individualistic approach to life—especially in the American culture where I live.  Many people are resistant to authority and do not appreciate other people speaking into their lives. Yet, God knows the human heart and the propensity to sin far better than the most skilled theologian. That’s why he designed preaching to be authoritative.

The word translated authority in Titus 2:15 is the Greek term, “ἐπιταγή” which has in mind an authoritative directive, command, order, or injunction. Out of the seven times this term is used in the NT, it’s translated “command” or “commandment” six of the seven times. Only here in Titus 2:15 do we see it rendered as authority. The idea is that the pastor should be preaching with a commanding authority.

This term is connected to another Greek term which is common in the NT—“ὑποτάσσω” which is often translated “submit.” It’s often used in connection to wives being subject to their own husbands or the church of Jesus submitting to Christ.

All true biblical preaching is authoritative. When the crowds heard Jesus’ preaching—they were astonished. He preached as one who had authority (Matt. 7:28-29). You cannot preach the Bible without preaching with authority. This is why Paul does not permit women to teach or preach in the context of the church because she would be exercising authority over a man which is a violation of God’s design for the hierarchical structure of authority in the life of the local church (see 1 Tim. 2:12).  

Authoritative preaching is not centered on the office of the pastor. The pastor does not have any ecclesiastical authority due to his position. The Roman Catholic Church has made this error throughout history. They have developed an ecclesiastical power system that includes the papacy and papal Infallibility among many other structural power grabs. This is not the authority that God has in mind when it comes to his church.

There have been many other grievous errors as it pertains to authority within evangelicalism. One common approach is visible within the charismatic circles where personal authority is built by a person claiming to have direct communication with God. For instance, when someone claims to receive direct revelation from God their popularity soars and people want to hear what they have to say on social media, in books, or in conference settings. Why? It’s directly connected to a perceived authority—due to the mysterious channel of communication that the person has with God. This is certainly not what God has in mind when it comes to authority.

Another error that we see often in evangelical circles is the heavy handed dictatorial leadership that is very prevalent within legalistic circles. The pastor serves as the CEO of the church where he commands, directs, and demands obedience out of the entire church—often majoring on cultural additives rather than the Word of God. This is extremely common within the KJV Only circles. This is not the form of authority that God designed for the church and for pastors.

To be clear, the authority of a pastor begins and ends with the Scriptures. If a pastor is merely commanding people to obey him and his ideas apart from chapter and verse of holy Scripture—he is guilty of overreach. The faithful pastor commands and thunders “Thus says the Lord”—expecting that people will hear the Word of God and obey. Listen to Paul’s commendation of the church in Thessalonica as he writes in 1 Thessalonians 2:13:

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

As the Word of God is proclaimed, the pastor serves as a herald who announces to the people a message from the King, and the people are to receive it as a message from the King rather than a message from the herald. Just as a herald’s message was to be received as if the king himself were present delivering the message—so the church should receive the faithful preaching of God’s Word as if Jesus himself is standing in the pulpit preaching.

Authoritative Preaching Is Positive and Negative

Paul directs Titus to exhort and rebuke the people. This involves both positive and negative aspects of preaching. The pastor is to encourage as he calls people alongside him and seeks to lift them up and comfort them in the faith. He is likewise to engage in rebuke in order to lead them away from sin and toward holiness.

The trend of our culture today is positivity. Everyone wants to be nice and positive. Any negativity is viewed as culturally unacceptable—unless it’s a major political season and then the gloves come off. When it comes to preaching, within the local church setting, many people are looking for a really nice guy to give really nice speeches about really helpful morality without being negative. That is simply not biblical preaching. Sheep wander off and walk straight toward predators. Sheep have a tendency to walk away from good water and good food into desolate, dry, and dangerous land. Sheep need to be rebuked.

That’s why Paul instructed Titus to rebuke the church. That’s likewise why Paul instructed Timothy to rebuke the church in his preaching (see 2 Tim. 4:1-5). The Greek term translated rebuke is “ἐλέγχω” which has in mind the idea of bringing a person to the point of recognizing wrongdoing. The focus is upon convicting or convincing someone of wrongdoing. That is the role of a pastor.

Faithful preaching involves commanding with authority from God’s Word in such a way that both encourages and rebukes as is necessary for everyone in the church.

Authoritative Preaching Demands Obedience

Paul gave Titus a clear command regarding his preaching ministry on the island of Crete—“Let no one disregard you.” The island of Crete was filled with lawless rebels and raging heretics who were teaching a works based salvation by circumcision. Both of these groups of people were impacting the churches on the island of Crete.

As the rogue mentality of lawlessness made its way into the church, it would be very common to have people who resist bold authoritative preaching. It would not be uncommon at all to have people who wanted to reject the pastor’s preaching based on their own private interpretations. That’s why Paul commanded Titus to be persistent in his preaching ministry.

The term used by Paul which is translated disregard is unique. It’s the Greek term, “περιφρονέω” which means to have disdain for, disregard, look down on, despise, or to evade. This is a compound Greek term. Phroneō means “to think,” while peri means “around.” The point Paul is driving home to Titus is that he must not allow people in the church to “think around” him as he preaches the Word and shepherds souls.

It’s common to have people rationalize their sin based on what they believe or what they have always heard. Paul’s charge to Titus was that they were not to be allowed to avoid or evade the clear teaching of Scripture. Titus was to be persistent in his preaching and he was to disciple the other pastors on the island to Crete to do the same thing in their approach to the pulpit.

Think about God’s design of authority and his calling of pastors to preach and teach holy Scripture in the life of the local church. Shallow preaching that avoids a tone of authority and seeks to please people will be disastrous for the health and vitality of the church.

It was Martin Luther who once said, “Always preach in such a way that if the people listening do not come to hate their sin, they will instead hate you.”



The Two Voices of the Pastor

The Two Voices of the Pastor

In writing to Titus about his responsibilities in Crete with the organization of the Church—Paul makes this statement in Titus 1:9, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Interestingly, in this list of qualifications for the office of elder, Paul makes it clear that the pastoral duty of the elder is to provide sound doctrine and sound correction. It was John Calvin, in commenting on this verse that said, “A pastor needs two voices, one for gathering the sheep and the other for driving away wolves and thieves.” [1]

The Voice of Edification

Just as sheep in the pasture hear and trust the voice of their shepherd, so must the people in the church recognize the voice of their pastor. They must follow his leadership and teaching so long as he is preaching and teaching the truths of Scripture. It is his calling, according to the very qualifications and responsibilities of the office, to teach sound doctrine.

What is sound doctrine? The word for doctrine is “διδασκαλία” which means, teaching. The point is that the pastor must have healthy teaching. Just because a man stands before a congregation and talks doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy. The goal here is for the building up of the faith of the local church so that they will grow in their knowledge of God and become faithful contributing church members for the glory of God. This is how the pastor equips the church for the work of ministry—by teaching sound doctrine.

The Voice of Correction

The wolf hides in the shadows. Sometimes the wolf enters the church to do great damage within the body. One thing that’s sure is that the wolf never introduces himself or herself as a wolf. It’s through the faithful and diligent preaching of God’s Word that the pastor will be able to reveal who the wolf is and expose the errors of such heretics for the entire church to see. Sometimes this will involve naming names such as when Paul named Alexander the Coppersmith publicly. Sometimes it involves a more veiled description such as when he described the Cretans in Titus 1:12. In either case, the pastor’s goal is to bring about correction.

The voice of correction is also used in terms of correcting the genuine Christians who walk off into error, who are perhaps influenced by the heretical teachings of a false teacher, or engage in open sin leading to the same of Christ’s name among the people. This could involve private rebukes, public church discipline, and as necessary, the pastor can point out the errors that might be impacting the entire church as Paul does in Titus 1:10.

Notice how Paul encouraged Titus to “rebuke…sharply” those who are in error in order that “They may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13). This is extremely important as Paul reveals the responsibility of the pastor and the goal of such a sharp rebuke. The goal is restoration of their faith so that they will have a healthy faith.

Through the years, I have made it known to the church I serve that my job as a pastor is not to be a life coach or religious entertainer. My goal and responsibility as a pastor is to prepare people to meet God. Such preparation should result in a life of holiness and spiritual maturity as we all journey onward toward eternal life.

If you’re not a pastor, take time to consider the responsibility of your pastors who lead you, pray for you, care for you spiritually, and diligently study God’s Word to care for your soul. Seek to follow their leadership, be open to their rebuke, and when possible—show appreciation for your pastors.

If you are a pastor, remember that it’s easy to preach and at times to make bold statements from the pulpit. What’s often very difficult is to engage with shepherding responsibilities in private where you must sharply rebuke a brother or sister in Christ with the ultimate goal of seeing them move to a healthy place spiritually. Remember, the trap of the devil is to avoid such shepherding responsibilities out of fear of man. Approach such responsibilities with care, humility, and faithfulness to God’s Word and at the same time trusting in God for the results.

  1. John Calvin, 1, 2 Timothy and Titus, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 184.
The Pastor and Reformation

The Pastor and Reformation

When we hear the term reformation we automatically have visions of an Augustinian monk marching to the large Castle Church door in Wittenberg with hammer in hand to nail his Ninety Five Theses there on October 31st 1517. However, there’s more to the Reformation than that one event and there’s an ongoing work of Reformation in our day. The weekly responsibilities of a pastor involves reforming the church. That’s what we see in Paul’s letter to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:14-16.

The Church and Cultural Trends

There are dangerous ditches to fall into within the church. One ditch is the ditch of tradition where a church member resists any idea of change simply because he has never done it that way before. Another ditch to avoid is that of constantly changing in order to accommodate the changing culture. There is steady cultural breeze that seeks to move the church off course. It may not seem like it’s too far off at first glance, but over time the distance becomes greater and the compromise becomes more severe. 

The church is under a steady assault from the world. Everything from the message to the mission of the church is being influenced by the culture. If not properly guarded—the church will be deformed little by little. Very seldom does a false teacher walk in the front door and introduce himself as the devil’s agent sent to destroy the church. But, if the message of the church is not properly guarded—the deformation of truth will take place week by week until the gospel is veiled altogether. 

This is the same pattern with regard to every aspect of the church—including the weekly worship service. That’s why there is a steady need for reformation in the life of the local church.

The Pastor and the Work of Reformation

The pastor of the church in Ephesus was Timothy. Paul wrote to him and gave clear instructions for him to reform the church’s behavior (1 Tim. 3:14-15). The term “behavior” comes from the Greek word, “ἀναστρέφω” meaning — “to conduct oneself in a specific manner.” It’s a reference to the functionality of the church. 

Apparently, since Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, there is reason to believe that something was off. It could be an indicator of some sort of compromise with personal relationships or within public worship—and both areas matter much to God. 

The pastor’s role as an overseer is to guard the church’s behavior. Interpersonal relationships matter as the church is called to maintain the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). Likewise, weekly worship must be orderly and arranged in such a manner as to bring glory to God. When the weekly worship is filled with man-centered elements from pragmatic arrangements to entertainment focused services—the gathering ceases to honor God and in some cases ceases to be a church altogether. 

Rather than entertaining the church, the pastor is to reprove, rebuke, and bring correction according to the Word of Truth (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Both personal relationships and public worship are to be regulated by the Word of God. The Scriptures are sufficient to guide us in friendships and the worship of God. It is the Word of God that provides boundaries for God’s people and it is the responsibility of the pastor to regulate the church for God’s glory. Such red lights and green lights help us to see the path of righteousness and the cultural errors which enables us to walk in obedience among the household of God.

Not only was this true in the days of ancient Ephesus, but it remains true for us today. When we hear of consumerism invading the church whereby people pack up their bags and move churches over simple disagreements, larger playgrounds at a church down the street, or because their grandchild decided to attend another church three miles from their current church—we’re reminded of the need to understand proper behavior among the church. When we see pastors entering the pulpit on zip lines and rock bands leading the people into a frenzy through secular music—we are reminded of the need for faithful pastors to guard the church and to regulate the church’s behavior both in relationships and worship in order to avoid error and glorify God. 

Pray for your pastors. Pray that they will not be swept away by the winds of compromise. Pray for them as they seek to engage in tedious work of reforming the church that the culture has sought to deform over time. 

The phrase ecclesia reformatasemper reformanda (the church reformed, always reforming) is the call of the church as a whole and it begins with those who are called to lead. 


Why all Pastors Should Look to Epaphroditus as a Worthy Example

Why all Pastors Should Look to Epaphroditus as a Worthy Example

When you visit a baseball park for a game, it’s common to see boys and men wearing their favorite player’s jersey. Complete with their ball cap, glove, and jersey—they enjoy the experience of watching their favorite ball player play the game. It’s good to set before your eyes good examples—those worthy of emulating.

When it comes to pastoral ministry, there are many poor examples of men who are lazy, who don’t take their calling seriously, or perhaps shouldn’t occupy a pulpit at all. Like baseball, it’s good to have solid men who serve as grand examples in pastoral ministry—and those are the men you want to follow after and keep your eyes focused on.

In Philippians 2:25-30, we find such a man who is worthy of imitation—a grand example of what pastoral ministry should look like. Notice how Paul describes Epaphroditus to the church at Philippi.

The Steadfast Labor of Epaphroditus

Paul called Epaphroditus his brother (a reference to a true believer) and fellow worker (συνεργός) which is a reference to the fact that Epaphroditus was a helper to Paul and his ministry in the gospel. When you consider the fact that pastoral ministry requires long hours and steady labor to get the work accomplished on a weekly basis—it should be noted that such a quality of steadfast work ethic is required. Epaphroditus was a man who refused to be lazy. A lazy pastor is a shameful thing.

It should also be noted that Epaphroditus exemplified a willingness to engage in spiritual warfare rather than looking to hide behind Paul and others to see how they would fight—he was apparently right there with Paul as a fellow solider. A faithful pastor must be willing to push back against error, expose sin, and use the sword of the Spirit to pierce false gospels that seek to lead the church astray.

A pastor who is unwilling to stand up against error and speak out against schemes of the devil is a pastor who has forfeited his post and abandoned his calling (see Titus 1:5-9). That was not the case for Epaphroditus.

The Love for God’s Church

There was no question regarding Epaphroditus’ love for the church at Philippi. He cared for the people and desired that they would be filled with joy. Paul refers to him as the messenger of the church at Philippi—one who labored to bring the people the gospel. This is indeed the best way for a pastor to love God’s people, by engaging in the labor of a messenger—to deliver the Word of God faithfully.

When you consider how many pastors today view themselves as life coaches, comedians, psychologists, and church growth experts—it shouldn’t really be a shock to see the spiritual lethargy and shallowness that persists among many local churches in our day. Epaphroditus was a man who understood what his responsibility was and he loved the people enough to bring them God’s Word.

His love is also evident in the fact that he didn’t want them to know about the severity of his health crisis. In fact, he had almost died—yet he didn’t really want the church at Philippi to know and worry. Rather than seeking to use his health situation as a means of elevating his need for love and care, he sought to keep it private in order to prevent the church from being overcome with fear and anxiety.

The Sacrificial Love for Christ

Paul mentions that Epaphroditus nearly died for the work of Christ—risking his life in the gospel service to Paul. Apparently, the illness that Epaphroditus experienced limited his ability to serve faithfully, but he labored onward in order to pick up the slack that the church at Philippi had in their care for Paul. Such a move put his health at risk greatly—and according to Paul he nearly died.

John Calvin observes:

Epaphroditus felt that his health would be in danger if he applied himself beyond measure; yet he would rather be negligent as to health than be deficient in duty; and that he may commend this conduct the more to the Philippians, he says that it was a filling up of their deficiency, * because, being situated at a distance, they could not furnish aid to Paul at Rome.[1]

The work of Christ is worthy of sacrifice and if necessary—death. Some men fight the good fight and it costs them dearly—as it did Spurgeon in the Downgrade—dying at 57 years of age. In other cases, the work of Christ may cost you everything as it did Tyndale who was burned at the stake for his work in bringing us the Bible in our English language. For Epaphroditus, it was the care of Paul and meeting his need. For that—we remember his faithfulness and diligence in his love for Christ—not just his love for Paul. It was Epaphroditus’ love for Christ that precipitated the sacrificial care he provided for Paul. Yes, he loved Paul, but he loved Christ even more.

These are the qualities of a faithful minister of the gospel. We all follow after examples—boys look to their favorite baseball player on the field, business owners look to worthy examples in the corporate world, and we must look to solid Christ exalting examples in pastoral ministry. Those who preach the gospel must walk in the footsteps of men who love Christ, his church, and understand what it means to be a faithful pastor.

That is how we remember Epaphroditus and that’s why Paul recommended him to return to Philippi to continue in his service as their overseer.

*“Vn accomplissement, ou moyen de suppleer ce qui defailloit de leur seruice;”—“A filling up, or a means of supplying what was defective in their service.”

[1] John Calvin and John Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 84–85.

Is a Plurality of Elders Necessary in the Local Church?

Is a Plurality of Elders Necessary in the Local Church?

Is it absolutely necessary for the freedom and vitality of the United States for a president to lead the people? While there may be many opinions on that very subject, it would not be necessary for our nation to be led by a president. If our nation decided to change the way we structure things and be led by a plurality of presidents, it would not be wrong to move in that direction. Neither one is mandatory. When it comes to professional baseball, must the team be led by a coach who is often referred to as a general manager? The fact is—there is no absolute answer to that question. A new management process could be developed that may do away with the general manager position and the owners of the baseball team would not be in error if they went in that direction. We have freedom in politics and the world of athletics.

When it comes to the local church—we must remember that everything we do should be evaluated through the lens of Scripture. If the Bible provides us with the necessities of both life and the practice of our faith—how the household of God functions really matters. Therefore, if God established a specific system and we choose to operate under a different model simply because of pragmatic rationale or a commitment to some form of modern trends or historic traditions—it must be noted that we don’t have such freedom to make those alterations.

There are great benefits to a church being led by elders (a plurality of pastors). Some of those benefits to the church as a whole would include a shared oversight through multiple men rather than just one man. Such shared authority protects the church from the cult of personality and bad decisions that could harm the church for years to follow. This shared oversight provides support for the lead pastor who serves as one of the pastors in the group. This shared authority includes shared responsibility and accountability. However, the main reason for organizing the leadership of the local church with a plurality of elders is not based on the benefits since this is not a pragmatic decision. The reason a plurality of elders is necessary is because of the fact that it’s clearly modeled in Scripture as the God-ordained pattern of leadership for a local church.

Alistair Begg writes, “Leadership in the church should always be shared – that is one reason that the apostolic pattern was to appoint a plurality of elders rather than a solitary elder in all the churches (Acts 14:23).” [1] God has a purpose in all that he does, and we must honor his plan for church government. We see a plurality of elders in individual local churches throughout the New Testament:

  • James 5:14
  • Acts 11:30
  • Acts 14:14; 21-23
  • Acts 15
  • Acts 20:17-38
  • 1 Timothy 5:17-20
  • Titus 1:5-11

According to 1 Peter 5:1-4, the pastor’s responsibility is to provide food, protection, discipline, and love. That task is utterly impossible to accomplish alone regardless of the size of the local church. Pastors need assistance from other pastors within the context of the local church family. For a pastor to think that he has all of the gifts necessary to oversee, equip, discipline, and lead the church is beyond arrogance. Needless to say, such a man has an elevated opinion of himself. Far too many local churches are self-governed or led by a group of deacons while the pastor simply preaches on Sunday. That’s not the biblical model.

When a church is led by a plurality of elders it not only provides joy for the pastors—but it should provide joy for the church as a whole as they become encouraged by the intentional oversight and care for the body of Christ. In short, true shepherds of God’s flock understand that the church belongs to God and they are merely appointed leaders to do the work of God. Therefore, the church should be established and organized to follow the biblical pattern.

Having staff positions who serve beneath the pastor and work alongside him is not the same as having a plurality of pastors who are equal in position. The pastors and the church both should be under authority. Mark Dever provides a helpful explanation as he writes:

So the Bible clearly teaches that New Testament churches are to be led by elders. At the end of the day, this question is just another way of asking whether or not we are going to allow the Scriptures to be the sole authority in the life of the church. For though there are lots of pragmatic reasons to have elders, from the perspective of a pastor, there are more pragmatic reasons not to have them. Elders can slow a senior pastor down, they can disagree with him, they can even tell him on occasion that he’s wrong. Pragmatically speaking, who would want that? [2]

When we ask if a plurality of elders is necessary it’s like asking if the Bible is sufficient? Interestingly enough we don’t argue with the organization of a plurality of deacons in a single local church, but we often have people who intentionally avoid having a plurality of elders in a local church. While there is biblical evidence to support a plurality of elders and a plurality of deacons in a local church—there are far more passages that discuss a plurality of elders than discuss a plurality of deacons.

If you are moving to a new town or looking for a church home—consider looking for a local church that has intentionally organized their church government to include a plurality of elders (pastors) who lead, oversee, care for, and equip their local church and a plurality of deacons who serve the church.

  1. Alistair Begg, On Being a Pastor, (Chicago: Moody Press, 2004), 218.
  2. Mark Dever, “Should a Church Have Elders?